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Planning ahead for the international weeks is now essential for Real Madrid

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International weeks are now being factored into the overall schedule.

Greece v Croatia - FIFA 2018 World Cup Qualifier Play-Off: Second Leg Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images

With no fewer than 13 players away this week with their respective countries, the number of people training at Real Madrid will be considerably reduced yet again.

Such is the present situation that Zinedine Zidane and the coaching team are having to take these international weeks into consideration when drawing up training plans.

It is becoming more and more of a challenge to the coaches in terms of using the time positively with those left behind, either due to injury or with the few players remaining who aren't involved at international level.

In addition to the disruption caused, there's always the potential for other players to come back injured as well; such as Isco against Costa Rica for example.

In fact we've been at the stage for some time now where players are actually going out injured to meet up with their representative squads; so in some cases even the continuity of treatment is being interrupted!

Dealing with this latest trend provides yet another challenge to Zidane et al. Even though they’ve been having to include the international fixtures in Real Madrid's training plan for a while now, as soon as you start to get players going away injured to join up with the international sides then this becomes a real problem.

Designing the training programme requires careful planning well in advance.

The whole framework of the training and playing itinerary at club level is normally drawn up in the close season. Referred to as periodisation - the science of planning a club training and playing schedule over a whole season in advance - this will include the pre-season period, the in-season proper, and the final run in.

The in-season is then sub-divided into smaller chunks to allow for the Champions League, the Copa del Rey, and for this season at least, the FIFA Club World Cup in December.

Taking into account the potential for Real to progress in the various cup competitions, the training plan will be further sub-divided yet again; this time into even shorter periods to allow for variance in fixtures and playing matches against different levels of opposition. Once the internationals are added, there's not much room left to manoeuvre.

With the high number of players in Real Madrid's squad who are regulars in their respective countries' international line-ups, it's no surprise then that weeks like this one now have to be factored into the overall programme.

The international weeks used to be the time when clubs were able to have a bit of leeway in the fixture calendar; at least with treatment and recovery in mind for the injured players if nothing else.

But even that's all changed now with the various federations' recent drift towards calling players up who are clearly unfit and haven't trained fully for several weeks.

As soon as the number of players away outnumber those staying behind then the international weeks become an issue. So from a club perspective, clearly this has been an issue for some time.

In many ways these international weeks now represent training days lost for both the fully fit and the injured players.

As has been mentioned before, the medical people in charge at the different national sides have enough to do as it is without treating players who are obviously unfit to play and in some cases unfit to even train.

As far as the players are concerned, individual rehab schedules can be difficult to adhere to if the best part of the day after a La Liga match is spent travelling; and for the non-European members of the team it's even worse.

Although a lot easier nowadays than in the past, long flights can be the last thing players want; particularly when they know that they're only going to be able to be involved up to a point.

International trips take on a different meaning when there's no chance of getting a game there either; and yet injured players who have had to travel are still expected to go through their usual routines; only under different supervision.

At the finish, Wales didn’t insist on having Gareth Bale report this week and it’s just as well given he’s now sustained an adductor injury. But Raphaël Varane was still included in the France squad for their games against Wales and Germany.

With so many players unavailable, it’s easy to see why forward planning is important. These international weeks are now part of Real Madrid’s overall calendar and are essential items to consider when thinking ahead.

Thinking ahead also includes the forthcoming derby against Atlético of course; but Zidane’s thoughts on this match will likely be influenced by the aforementioned internationals.